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The Crimson Petal and the White

by Michel Faber

Impossible to resist being pulled right into this from the very first paragraph. By page 5 you will feel that you are a vital character in the life of the novel itself - so how can you leave? Save this book up for when you really need a reading treat. It has a historical setting, but with a very modern edge and plenty of sex so may well convert anyone who isn't really a fan of historical fiction.

Extract

It's an ashen hour of night, blackish-grey and almost readable like undisturbed pages of burnt manuscript. You blunder forward into the haze of your own spent breath, still following me. The cobblestones beneath your feet are wet and mucky, the air is frigid and smells of sour spirits and slowly dissolving dung. You hear muffled drunken voices from somewhere nearby, but waht little you can understand doesn't sound like the carefully chosen opening speeches of a grand romantic drama; instead, you find yourself hoping to God that the voices come no closer.
Th main characters in this story, with whom you want to become intimate, are nowhere near here. They aren't expecting you; you mean nothing to them. If you think they're going to get out of their warm beds and travel miles to meet you, you are mistaken.
You may wonder, then: why did I bring you here? Why this delay in meeting the people you thought you were going to meet? The answer is simple: their servants wouldn't have let you in the door.

Parallels

Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles
Vida by Marge Piercy
 

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